World of Dust, by Joel Biroco

[Biroco’s] sense of contemplating nature is v. powerful – these passages create a sense of concentration, stillness and peace that is rarely found in modern writing (except perhaps W G Sebald).

– Daniel Davies on World of Dust

World of Dust is a book about solitude, and memory. It was written from the states of mind that prevail upon a man who has driven himself to the edges of society. It’s a book that’s been lived in. The carpets are rucked up, a lot of thinking happened in this room. Someone flirted with madness in here, valued despair almost as much as joy. Stood alone for years before even thinking of return. It is a disturbing book, brutally honest, eccentric, frequently funny if you have a slightly deranged sense of humour, and peaceful in a strange sort of way. A clash of worlds. Metaphysical, and ordinary. A sparsely furnished room, and outer space. A falling away of everything. Childhood ransacked for moments of understanding from the distance of age. Playfulness with words. The beauty of language and what it can say when you don’t try too hard to force it into market-acceptable forms.

World of Dust is a story shattered into fragments waiting to be picked up in matching pieces. It is a philosophy in sudden shafts of sunlight out of dark clouds.

Written 1998–2007. 185 pages in print.

Als würde man einen Zen Steingarten betrachten. (Like watching a Zen stone garden.)

– Benita Winckler on World of Dust

Download the ebook

The print edition is sold out. There are no plans to reprint it at the moment, but we may do at some point. A free ebook is available:

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About Joel Biroco

Born in England, Biroco studied chemistry at university, was a journalist for some years, and then dropped out to pursue personal research into the nature of reality. He has been described as ‘an urban recluse’. On the occult scene he is a diabolist of some repute, though he has always regarded his occult overcoat as limiting and often prefers to pursue his interest in Zen and Daoism.

He began writing in boyhood with a series of zombie stories, but he didn’t start writing seriously until the early 80s, when he bought his first manual typewriter, an Imperial 66. To this day, he still writes on old typewriters, his main one being a 1935 Underwood Universal. Much of World of Dust was written on a 1923 Underwood portable. His earlier work was published in small magazines and hand-set letterpress chapbooks from The Herculaneum Press and The Strawberry Press. World of Dust is the first of his longer works to be published. He has a website at www.biroco.com.

A note on the title

‘World of Dust’ is a phrase that occurs in Chinese poetry. It refers to ‘this world’, the mundane world. When Daoists left the conventional world to ascend into the mountains they were said to be ‘leaving the world of dust behind’. They would stand at the foot of the mountain shaking the dust of their journey out of their clothes as a symbolic gesture before entering into a life of seclusion, such that just the word ‘dust’ (chén) on its own in Chinese hermit poetry usually carries this connotation. These ideas inform Joel Biroco’s work, but there’s nothing Chinese about it otherwise. (See also: Ryokan, too lazy to be ambitious.)